Sonja Luehrmann, Receives Waldo Gifford Leland Award (Society of American Archivists)


Sonja Luehrmann, associate professor of anthropology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and EURIAS Fellow 2015-2016 at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, is the 2016 recipient of the Waldo Gifford Leland Award given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) for her book, Religion in Secular Archives: Soviet Atheism and Historical Knowledge, published by Oxford University Press. The award will be presented at a ceremony during the Joint Annual Meeting of SAA and the Council of State Archivists in Atlanta, July 31–August 6.


The Waldo Gifford Leland Award is given for writing of superior excellence and usefulness in the fields of archival history, theory, and practice. In Religion in Secular Archives, Luehrmann offers a thoughtful approach to the study of religious practice in 1950s–1970s Soviet Russia. Based on research in locations as diverse as the multi-religious Volga region, Moscow, and Texas, Luehrmann focuses on archival documents generated by militantly atheist institutions and urges us to consider how these sources were produced, exchanged, and read. Acknowledging that documentation practices sustain systems of power, Luehrmann closely examines archival research when available sources are produced by people different than or in conflict with those being described. She combines official archival documents with oral history, published sources, and alternative counter-archives, creating a thorough narrative of modern Soviet religiosity.


The Award Committee noted that Luehrmann’s “consideration of the UK-based Keston Institute’s counter-archive and its filing systems will further cement archivists’ recognition of the power at stake when we arrange and describe our holdings.”


Established in 1959, the Waldo Gifford Leland Award is named for one of North America’s archival pioneers and SAA’s second president. Past recipients include Michelle Caswell for Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia; Ellen Gruber Garvey for Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance; Astrid Eckhart for The Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War; and Francis X. Blouin and William G. Rosenberg for Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives.